Gary Thomas, CDR USCG (ret.)


I recently read an article published by US Naval Institute that noted the Coast Guard is on pace to interdict more than 400 metric tons of cocaine, more than doubling its interdictions last year. The success is, in a large part, the result of improved intelligence using a “whole of government” approach to find, fix and finish the pursuit of drug runners. One of the key platforms for the Coast Guard has the National Security Cutters (NSC) which have been added to the fleet over the past few years.

The NSCs have already shown themselves to be game changers, particularly with their state of the art Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) suite, which has allowed them real-time connectivity back to the shore side intelligence centers. While it is easy today to see the value in the acquisition of the NSCs, it wasn’t too long ago that the Coast Guard was unsure that Congress would provide sufficient funding for the requested eight NSCs. There were questions about the force mix, whether “Deepwater” – the supra acquisition project that brought us the NSC – was being properly managed and if the costs were too high. Others wondered if we should simply give up on the NSC design and just use the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, then just in design.

There was another time when the Coast Guard was trying to procure a game changing cutter design. There were questions about the cost (the first design was prohibitively expensive). Others suggested that the Coast Guard simply use a US Navy design (too large a crew needed for CG operations) or buy less than they wanted. There was much discussion in Congress about the correct “mix” of cutters for the fleet, just as there is today. In the end, seven of these new cutters were built and they were indeed game changers. They served in three wars, in a variety of missions from convoy duty to amphibious flag ships, later as stalwarts in CG law enforcement action, enforcing fisheries laws and conducting, yes, drug interdiction patrols. Some of you may recall this class of cutters as the Secretary Class, while others might remember them as the Treasury Class. But everyone remembers them as “327s”. With some of the seven sisters serving nearly four decades, at $2.5M per hull, they earned their keep. I suspect in a couple of decades, we’ll say the same for the NSCs.

We’re happy to report that Scott Price, the Coast Guard’s Deputy Historian and most recently the “Acting” Historian following Dr. Browning’s retirement, has been named the permanent Chief Historian of the US Coast Guard. We at the FCGH have known and worked with Scott for years and know his dedication to preserving and sharing Coast Guard history is unsurpassed and we look forward to continuing our relationship with him and the Coast Guard. And almost as important as his hiring is, this means the Coast Guard will now start to fill other vacancies in the Historian’s office!

As the Chairman mentioned, we continue to work with the National Coast Guard Museum Association to bring the effort to life. We appreciate those who have provided input about the things you like about other museums and what needs to be in our museum. Keep the information coming! You’ll read elsewhere in this edition more about the Museum Exhibit Advisory Panel.

And as I mentioned in the last The Cutter, our third edition of our coffee table book “The Coast Guard” was going to the printers. It is now on sale, so if you were avoiding paying $200 on eBay, you can now get a copy at your local exchange or online. Remember, a portion of each sale goes to the FCGH to aid us in our preservation and promotion of US Coast Guard history.

We continue to serve you, our membership, in our mission promote the recognition and prestige of the United States Coast Guard by emphasizing its illustrious past and contributions to the nation. Please make your reports to the bridge if you have course corrections we should make. Otherwise, I’ll report that we are on our P.I.M.

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